NORTHBOROUGH – The Northborough and Westborough chapter of Girls on the Run has made strides towards building confidence and relationships this season.
“The program is really geared toward girls being more confident, believing in themselves and building friendships and self esteem,” Northborough Head Coach Katie Girard said.
Girls on the Run is a national nonprofit organization, which designs programming aimed at strengthening third to eighth grade girls’ emotional, social, physical and behavioral skills to help them successfully navigate life experiences.
“In the climate that we are in right now, girls need more and more tools to try to deal with the social and emotional things that are going on in this world,” Worcester County Program Coordinator Katie Esposito said. “That [tools to help girls emotionally] combined with fitness are two things that are going to help them get through their school years and everything after.”
When the pandemic struck and because of school closures, the Northborough and Westborough chapters combined and practiced together at Ellsworth McAfee Park in Northborough.
Two years later, the teams have combined into one and added a few new teammates from Hudson and Marlborough, Girard said.
She said this chapter of Girls on The Run is unique because they are “probably” the only chapter that includes girls from neighboring towns.
Each practice includes a lesson, a warmup, smaller exercises and running. Four out of the 10 girls attend school in Westborough, but Girard said they “team up” with a different friend each week.
She said the girls have gotten along “wonderfully.”
“Normally, we are an after-school program and it is [for] the girls at the school,” Esposito said. “The one thing that I have seen is girls who may not run in the same circles become friends through this program, so they are able to celebrate their differences and embrace their uniqueness.”
Esposito said that incorporating physical fitness into the routines of children is crucial for the girls’ development as it prepares them to eventually balance fitness with their adult lives.
“It [fitness] is a harder habit to pick up if you are already working and doing things in the world, so teaching girls that it’s a basic necessity is something they can build on for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Esposito recalled a fond memory she has through working with the Northborough and Westborough team and the other Worcester County teams.
Last season, Girls on the Run hosted a 5k at Polar Park and during the race Esposito said she found out that the National Anthem singer was not going to attend, so the girls got up on stage and sang.
“That was the moment that I forgot about what I do on a daily basis and remembered exactly what this program is all about,” she said.